Thirteen students from the Advanced Studies Program have spent the summer meeting with entrepreneurs from across the region to better understand the challenges of running a business.
Innovation in Action is new to the ASP curriculum in 2014, the brainchild of Master Teacher Blake Sims, who proposed the class as part of a larger effort to develop a curriculum that teaches middle- and high-school students to think like entrepreneurs. Sims, the curriculum director at Innovation in Action LLC, has spent the past year working with a pair of colleagues to analyze what is currently available in entrepreneurship education.
“The ideas of failure and effort and challenge,” says Sims, “and the pressures of constantly needing to iterate change or ideas is not something with which many students are familiar.”
This summer, class members have picked the brains of business owners from around the region, including Michael Krinsky, co-founder of the Mountain T-shirt Company. Krinsky told the class earlier in July that his business has undergone many changes, from retail to wholesale, from Grateful Dead T-shirts to Mountain’s popular three-wolf moon shirts. He advised students that it’s hard to predict the future as a business owner, making paramount the ability to adapt.
In their five and a half weeks at ASP, the Innovation in Action students have developed client-interviewing skills, developed business plans, and worked on multiple projects, including suggestions for redesigning the American school system. Their final project asked students to develop their own venture to pitch to a group of judges.
The project idea of Lucy Eills allowed the Concord High School student to merge entrepreneurial skills with an interest in helping the homeless.
“I wouldn’t want to commit my life to something that I don’t find intellectually stimulating,” says Eills.
By the age of six, Stefan Mraz already had begun experimenting with business ownership through a series of lemonade stands.
“I started out with a fold-up table,” explains the Exeter High School senior. “I built that up and made a cart. Then I started selling other things, like cookies.”
Sims hopes to expand the knowledge she has gained from working with ASP students to create similar summer classes for innovative students, semester-long courses in their high schools, and professional development opportunities for colleagues, regardless of business sense.
“Entrepreneurship is a vehicle to teach transferable life skills that are of value to anyone,” she says.